Big Bytes: Using Tech for Restaurant Discounts
One of the best things about technology — according to just about everybody but Congress — is the wealth of information that’s available anytime and anywhere we need it.
As the Internet and smartphones have evolved, so too has the way people use this technology. Our iPhones and Androids aren’t just for looking up news and directions anymore, they’re also an excellent way to save money on food and snacks on the go.
If you’re a busy career person or just that guy or girl who’d rather eat take out than turn on a burner, here are 10 tech-savvy apps and websites that will save you money when those hunger pangs hit, no matter where you are. (See also: A Cheapskate's Guide to Eating Out)
You usually can’t score full meals using Foursquare specials, but there are probably good deals that you can take advantage of in your neighborhood. In my area, there are lots of restaurants that offer a free glass of wine just for stopping in — no purchase necessary. At a Ruby Tuesday once, my husband and I scored a free appetizer by asking for the manager as the special requested. We had already eaten our dinner and weren’t hungry for the appetizer, which means that we got free dessert instead. Cake is much better than pot stickers anyway.
I live by gift certificates from Restaurant.com for two reasons: 1) They’re a great way to try a restaurant that you maybe you wouldn’t have otherwise, and 2) they provide an excellent opportunity to save money on a restaurant that you frequent a lot. There’s a place around the corner from my house that I visit at least four times a week to finish up my work or to simply connect with others since I work from home all day. I keep my gift certificates in my bag (which, by the way, I buy at the deepest discount available — mostly 80% but sometimes 90% off; do your Google search), so if I get hungry while I’m there I can order dinner without feeling too guilty about it.
I used Scoutmob for the very first time last week, and it was easy as pie. When I opened the app, I noticed that one of my favorite restaurants was offering 50% off meals with a max discount of $25 (other deals will vary more or less, however). When my husband and I were looking for someplace to eat on Friday, that’s the first place that came to mind. Deals on Scoutmob don’t cost the user any money, either. You just show up, check in, and hand your phone to your server so that he can verify the discount.
This app is similar to Scoutmob in that it shows the deals closest to you at any given time, but unlike Scoutmob, Groupon Now! charges the users a discounted fee for whatever food item is offered. Personally, I would check Scoutmob first, but the deals are still very good here, too.
Papa John’s App
I’m singling this app out for a reason. Papa John’s has a program called Papa Rewards that allows registered users to earn points based on the cost of their orders. You receive one point for every $5 spent. Once you receive 25 points — which to be honest, doesn’t take too long depending on how often you order from the joint (we order from here way too much!) — you qualify for a free pizza. I’m using Papa John’s as an example here to let you know that these kinds of programs exist (with keychain and punch cards, too), and they’re worth looking into if you frequent certain establishments.
When I originally chose GrubHub to include in this post, I was under the impression that new registrants of the web- and app-based delivery service received a $10 credit to use when placing their first order. That was true at one point, but the deal expired this past November. Because I didn’t want you to miss out on GrubHub if you haven’t yet tried it — and I certainly didn’t want to deprive you of a chance to save some dough — I called the GrubHub peeps yesterday, and they were totally excited to offer the first 50 Wise Bread readers (who are new GrubHub users) a $5 coupon code to use when checking out after ordering their meal. Just enter WISEBREAD5 before January 23 to redeem this exclusive offer.
LivingSocial Instant is the exact same concept as Groupon Now! Like I said before, you might find a deal here that Groupon Now! or Scoutmob doesn’t have. It only takes a few minutes to compare and save.
The BlackboardEats website/app is a bit more exclusive than the others, with deals targeting only Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. But registered users will receive weekly e-mails good for a percentage off their meal, a free bottle of wine, exclusive prix fixes, secret menus, and more at some of the best restaurants in their respective cities.
Happy Hour Finder
The best part about happy hours is the discount booze and sometimes free food. In fact, I once stumbled upon a happy hour at the Jersey Shore that offered a smorgasbord of food including pastas, sausages, and cold cuts — enough to feed a crowd full of juice heads and me — for free. As soon as you open the Happy Hour Finder app, you’ll find happy hours nearby plus their registered deals. There are 13 in my area right now. How many are in yours?
Before a trip to Dallas two years ago, I did an Internet search for the best barbecue restaurants in the area — I mean, who goes to Dallas without getting sauce on their shirt? Anyway, the search told me that Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse was highly recommended, so I visited the website to see what it was all about. I’m glad I did, too. Right there on the front page was a sign-up form for a buy one, get one free coupon. Total score! So many restaurants have these deals as part of their loyalty clubs and people overlook them — especially on birthdays when you can get a motherload of freebies…and a few extra pounds.